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Back to school brings focus on education

August 8th, 2014

As students go back to school throughout the month of August, look for a new post each week from MEPC on the topic of education.   Quality K-12 schools and higher education are vital for the prosperity of working families throughout the state and our state’s ability to attract jobs.   While often cited as a priority by policymakers, Mississippi continues to find itself at the bottom of state rankings in education and child well-being.

While not the only factor in the success of our schools, adequate funding is essential to school improvement efforts.  Unfortunately, this is an area where Mississippi has missed the mark.  State law determines the amount of funding needed for our schools through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).  The last year our schools received full funding was 2008, and it was only fully funded one other year before that.  Since then, schools have been under-funded by a cumulative $1.5 billion.  The chart attached illustrates this gap between full funding and actual funding.  While the actual funding has grown incrementally for MAEP over the last few years, when adjusted for inflation, we are actually spending less per student than before the recession.

MAEP is a funding formula enacted into state law that is designed to make sure all of the state’s school districts have enough funding to provide an adequate education to its students.  It does this by looking at previous years’ spending of schools that are considered successful and efficient by the State Board of Education and calculating a per student base cost.  That figure is then allocated to school districts based on the number of students they have and how much local contribution they are able to provide.  The total for all the districts based on that calculation is what is needed for full funding.   So, full funding is not based on every school district’s wish list, it is the basic funding needed to provide an adequate education.  To see a detailed description of how MAEP is calculated from the Mississippi Department of Education, click here.

One group that’s working to improve education funding in Mississippi is Better Schools Better Jobs.  It is working to amend the state’s constitution to direct a percentage of each year’s state revenue growth to K-12 schools.

Stay tuned throughout the month as we cover other K-12 and higher education topics.

Sara Miller

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